Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Portraits

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A few Portraits from Album
A few portraits from the album

After the Civil War, veterans who had fought for the Union formed the Grand Army of the Republic. The G. A. R., as it became known, and its auxiliary Women's Relief Corps provided support for veterans-organization of soldier reunions, political clout for federal and state Soldiers Homes for invalids, and advocacy for a Memorial Day. Civil War veterans became a powerful force in Seattle and the rest of Washington, often dominating businesses, government offices, and political races, with nearly 100 organized "posts" in the state. One of the largest and most prestigious posts was Stevens Post #1 in Seattle, established in 1878. The following year it created the first Memorial Day celebration in Seattle. Information about these posts, which disappeared as veterans died, is often scarce. Descendants' groups, such as the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, carry on some of the responsibilities of the old posts, but relatively little is known about the veterans who started it all.

About 1915, Stevens Post members put together an album of photographic portraits collected from members over the previous 25 years or so. It was a large leather-bound book providing four portraits per page, but only the first 29 pages have pictures on them. 10 of the portraits were unidentified* and others only partially. At this point some portrait frames have a name attached, but the picture is missing. The 106 portraits remaining form a remarkable resource for Seattle history.

Copyright and Use

Items in this collection are not held by the UW Libraries because this collection belongs to the Seattle Public Library. To order a reproduction or to inquire about permission, contact the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Seattle Room in The Seattle Public Library at (206) 386-4633 or send email to sea@spl.org.

About the Album

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Help Identify this Person

The album was donated to the Seattle Public Library before 1971. The album was first kept in the general closed stacks of the History Department and then was moved to the Northwest History Collection stacks in the Old Seattle Central Library. It was uncataloged until Darlene E. Hamilton (Senior Librarian in Genealogy, Central Library) created a card for it in the Genealogy Subject Card Catalog. When the old Central Library was torn down in 2001 the album was placed in storage until the new Central Library opened in 2004. The album was then officially cataloged and placed in the locked cabinets in the Seattle Room. Seattle genealogist Denise R. Ottoson, who lives on Capitol Hill where many of the men portrayed are buried, collected information on the identifiable veterans. When it became clear that many people might be interested in viewing the portraits, the issue of access became problematic. The album has become fragile and cannot withstand general use. At the request of representatives from the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, legal heirs to the G.A.R., Seattle Public Library staff approached the University of Washington's library staff to determine if digital access to the photographs could be possible. With the technical and website cooperation of the University of Washington this extraordinary portraiture of a cross-section of Seattle Civil War veterans from Stevens Post #1 is now available on-line.

* If you have information to help identify any of the people in these photographs please contact us.